Whilst we were away, BBC Two sneaked out three-part horror thriller Stag – written and directed by Jim Fielding Smith, and featuring a top notch cast including TVO regulars Jim Howick, Rufus Jones and Reece Shearsmith.
The results are now lost in the iPlayer ether, but are available to buy via DVD, Amazon Video and BBC Store. We wanted to sing its praises upon our return, much as we had via Twitter during the run, but then friend of TVO – theatre director/writer/actor Julie Burrow – asked us for the opportunity to wax lyrical about it instead.
Here, then, are her views on the stag-do from hell. Needless to say, spoilers can be found below…
Earlier this year, BBC2 brought us Stag, written and directed by TVO regular Jim Field Smith (The Wrong Mans, Snuffbox and former member of Dutch Elm Conservatoire). Featuring an abundance of comic performers including fellow TVOers Jim Howick, Reece Shearsmith and Rufus Jones, and cameos from Nico Tatarowicz and Tom Davies, it was a show a lot of comedy fans were waiting for with baited breath.
It’s Johnners’ (The Wrong Mans’ Stephen Campbell Moore) stag do and he and an assortment of his friends and associates have headed to the Scottish moors to hunt some… stag. Although the two have never met, Johnners’ brother-in-law-to-be turns up to join the group.
Geography Teacher Ian, played by Horrible Histories and Yonderland star Jim Howick – is perfect fodder for their ex-private schoolboy cruelty. However, what starts out as a comedy seemingly based around the dynamics of Ian’s arrival amongst a bunch of overprivileged men on their worst behaviour, stuck together in the middle of nowhere, quickly descends into something more sinister as the men find themselves abandoned on the moor, hunted by a murderous psychopath.
Jim Field Smith’s script regularly twists and turns. Is the murderer the ill-tempered groundkeeper (Game of Thrones James Cosmo) or is it someone closer to home: another victim of the group’s mistreatment? Across the three hour-long episodes, viewers are left questioning just what the hell is going on… until the slightly less ambiguous conclusion.
Along the way, we are treated to some wonderful performances, particularly from Rufus Jones as pretentious Cosmo. His growing likeability in Episode 2 is played with so sadistically, that you can almost hear a gleeful rubbing together of the director’s hands when Cosmo meets his untimely fate.
In fact, all through Stag, you can feel the dark enjoyment that has gone into making it: the relish of combining thriller with comedy that Jim Field Smith brought to The Wrong Mans prevously, and the cast clearly take great pleasure at playing in the world he has created.
Overall, Stag is a dark comedy thriller with a fantastic cast which keeps you guessing until the end.
Stag is now available on DVD via Amazon, as well as digitally via Amazon and BBC Store. You can see a selection of images from the production below.